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Researchers Say Molybdenite Could Replace Silicon in Chips

Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) claim to have built an integrated circuit that uses molybdenite instead of silicon.

The researchers believe that molybdenite can surpass the physical limits of silicon in terms of miniaturization, electricity consumption, and mechanical flexibility.

"The main advantage of MoS2 is that it allows us to reduce the size of transistors, and thus to further miniaturize them," said Andras Kis, director at the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) at EPFL. "It has not been possible up to this point to make layers of silicon less than two nanometers thick, because of the risk of initiating a chemical reaction that would oxidize the surface and compromise its electronic properties. Molybdenite, on the other hand, can be worked in layers only three atoms thick, making it possible to build chips that are at least three times smaller. At this scale, the material is still very stable and conduction is easy to control."

What makes molybdenite even more attractive is the fact that it is a "relatively abundant, naturally occurring mineral." The researchers said that it can directly compete with silicon as its structure and semiconducting properties make it "an ideal material for transistors." According to Kis, however, molybdenite transistors are more efficient, since they "can be turned on and off much more quickly, and can be put into a more complete standby mode." The researcher said that the material is about as good as silicon for the amplification of electric signals.

So far, the scientists have only built very basic chips with two to six transistors. They now want to build larger chips.

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  • 15 Hide
    nikorr , December 26, 2011 12:27 AM
    Its all about money. The cheapest material wins...
  • 12 Hide
    dogman_1234 , December 25, 2011 11:22 PM
    I was also thinking Graphene. Apparently, this is more efficient than Graphene. however, will this still be able to be used even under 16 nm nodes considering MoS2 is larger than SiO2 or even xC6,( Graphene)?
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , December 26, 2011 1:18 AM
    nikorrIts all about money. The cheapest material wins...


    "strawberry flavored cranberries"
    Exactly... they even do it in your snack bars.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    alidan , December 25, 2011 11:12 PM
    what happened to Graphene,was met with the silicon replacement, and of this new stuff have the same heat qualities that Graphene has, it be nice to see the chips going to 50 GHz+
  • 12 Hide
    dogman_1234 , December 25, 2011 11:22 PM
    I was also thinking Graphene. Apparently, this is more efficient than Graphene. however, will this still be able to be used even under 16 nm nodes considering MoS2 is larger than SiO2 or even xC6,( Graphene)?
  • 9 Hide
    kcorp2003 , December 25, 2011 11:46 PM
    According to Yu-Ming Lin from IBM Research:

    There is an important distinction between the graphene transistors that we demonstrated, and the transistors used in a CPU. Unlike silicon, ‘graphene does not have an energy gap, and therefore, graphene cannot be “switched off,” resulting in a small on/off ratio.

    Quote:
    No off state means more energy leakage and therefore more heat. It also makes it more difficult to figure out the state of a transistor, and if IBM is correct, too difficult for it to be a viable solution when graphene is used as the base material.
  • 4 Hide
    cheepstuff , December 25, 2011 11:56 PM
    graphene is also extremely expensive, but that is changing quickly and may no longer be true as new industrial processes are introduced
  • 15 Hide
    nikorr , December 26, 2011 12:27 AM
    Its all about money. The cheapest material wins...
  • 6 Hide
    memadmax , December 26, 2011 1:03 AM
    nikorrIts all about money. The cheapest material wins...


    It will be expensive at first. When it takes off it will get cheaper...
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , December 26, 2011 1:18 AM
    nikorrIts all about money. The cheapest material wins...


    "strawberry flavored cranberries"
    Exactly... they even do it in your snack bars.
  • 0 Hide
    nieur , December 26, 2011 1:21 AM
    i think graphene is good for high frequency analog signals
  • 7 Hide
    amuffin , December 26, 2011 2:17 AM
    I thought intel was working on light to replace silicon :/ 
  • 5 Hide
    CaedenV , December 26, 2011 3:15 AM
    amuffinI thought intel was working on light to replace silicon

    Well they are, but the whole processor cannot be light. Each 'light transistor' must have a diode and a receiver. Those millions of leds and receivers will take a fair amount of material to control and route power to each one.
  • -1 Hide
    theuniquegamer , December 26, 2011 3:15 AM
    I think the silicon chip would need to replaced by artificial diamonds in 10 years or after because they 10x or more conductive than the current super conductors that are used in chips. By using them the chips would have super efficient and very small in size so will be powerful though they will have a hugh price point.
  • 1 Hide
    truegenius , December 26, 2011 8:28 AM
    then we can have performance like that of i7-3960k in a mobile phone like device
  • 2 Hide
    freggo , December 26, 2011 1:29 PM
    theuniquegamerI think the silicon chip would need to replaced by artificial diamonds in 10 years or after because they 10x or more conductive than the current super conductors that are used in chips. By using them the chips would have super efficient and very small in size so will be powerful though they will have a hugh price point.


    I can see the new commercial from "de Beers"; a Diamond is a computer geeks best friend. :-)
    And iPods will be sold exclusively thru "Jared" of course.
  • 0 Hide
    husker , December 26, 2011 2:40 PM
    When they start talking about transistors in terms of only a handful of molecules in size, I begin to wonder about what new and quirky quantum physics is going to come into play.
  • 2 Hide
    deksman , December 26, 2011 2:59 PM
    Well, the industry had the means to switch over to either graphene, diamonds, or even 'hybrids' of all those materials over a decade ago.
    Graphene was actually first 'thought' (at least by mainstream views) as a silicon replacement.

    Realistically, we could have had quantum computers by now in the market.
    Consumer grade tech is about 5 to 6 decades behind 'actual' technological progress.
    Majority of these 'inventions' are just yet another way to keep recycling same or similar computing methods without having to switch to an entirely new system (one of the issues why they don't want to do it is because software development is abysmal... so even if they put out a quantum computer out into the open today -which they probably can, writing the software for it is a different story).

    All of this is yet another method to gear up more money. Nothing else.
    Otherwise, we'd be long past this level.
  • 2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , December 26, 2011 5:03 PM
    I have not doubt that scientists will eventually discover a suitable replacement for silicon.
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , December 26, 2011 5:59 PM
    What's the difference between molybdenum and molybdenite? Molybdenum is in my engine oil as an emergency anti-wear additive (graphite) and it's in my multivitamin apparently too.
  • -1 Hide
    kjsfnkwl , December 26, 2011 10:12 PM
    deksmanWell, the industry had the means to switch over to either graphene, diamonds, or even 'hybrids' of all those materials over a decade ago.Graphene was actually first 'thought' (at least by mainstream views) as a silicon replacement.Realistically, we could have had quantum computers by now in the market.Consumer grade tech is about 5 to 6 decades behind 'actual' technological progress.Majority of these 'inventions' are just yet another way to keep recycling same or similar computing methods without having to switch to an entirely new system (one of the issues why they don't want to do it is because software development is abysmal... so even if they put out a quantum computer out into the open today -which they probably can, writing the software for it is a different story).All of this is yet another method to gear up more money. Nothing else.Otherwise, we'd be long past this level.

    Very insightful observation, my friend. +1
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